Solid noise cancelling
Huge battery life
Software is occasionally finicky
All in all, I love JBL’s Tour One headphones. They’re comfortable, stuffed with useful features, do a great job canceling noise, and sound excellent. Apart from some minor complaints about the software defaults and a small issue with the included 3.5mm cable, these headphones are nearly flawless.
They do face some stiff competition. You can get our current top-rated headphones for about $50 more, for example, though the difference in overall quality may not be worth the price increase for a lot of folks. Generally, if $300 is your limit, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a superior pair of noise-canceling over-ears right now.
About the JBL Tour One
The Tour One fit into a particular headphone niche: wireless travel cans that boast just about every feature you could ask for, whether you need them for long trips, working from home, or anything in between. In keeping with the competition, they land in the $300 price range.
Here are the specs you’ll want to know about:
- Price: $299.95
- Style: Over-ear
- Noise-canceling: True Adaptive Noise Canceling
- Battery life: Up to 50 hours (depending on usage)
- Passive operation: Yes (3.5mm cable included)
- Voice assistant: Yes (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant)
- Weight: 268 g/0.59 lbs. (headphones only)
- Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 5.0
- Colors: Black
- Additional features: Ambient Aware, TalkThru, Smart Audio/Smart Video, Auto Off, Auto-Pause, Hands-free Voice Control, custom EQ
Alongside the headphones, you’ll get a USB-C charging cable, a sturdy zip-up carrying case, a 3.5mm audio cable, and an airplane adapter.
What we like
Lightweight, comfy, and intuitive
I’m a fan of over-ear headphones (in lieu of on- or earbuds) in part because of the cushy way they cradle your ears and distribute their weight. While you’ll never forget a pair of over-ears is on your head, the Tour One do a great job balancing cushy padding for short-term comfort and a lightweight chassis to avoid long-term fatigue. At a little under 270 grams, the Tour One are just a bit heavier than our top-rated over-ear headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4. Still, while the Tour One aren’t the lightest over-ears you can buy, they’re easily light enough to wear for hours without complaint.
From a design perspective, the cups take up a decent amount of space, rather than molding tight or very flat around your ears. These substantial (yet still quite compact) cups are what make possible the various functions you’re getting here, including voice microphones, an outer microphone array, a big battery, and a few control buttons. The latter present a deviation from the fully touch-capacitive design on the XM4, allowing you to adjust volume, enable Bluetooth, and jump between ANC and transparency modes with actual physical buttons.
However, the Tour One also features a single touch-capacitive function on the right cup that allows for play/pause (with a single tap) or you can tap-and-hold to activate your phone’s voice assistant. This is OS-dependent by default (so Samsung phones will use Bixby, for example), but can be assigned specifically to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant if you so choose.
While I don’t mind exclusively touch-capacitive controls (once I have a day or two to learn them), I appreciate the certainty presented by real buttons. Within minutes of plopping the Tour One on my head, I was adjusting volume and jumping through playback modes without a single misfire. And with only one touch-capacitive surface to remember, the Tour One’s semi-hybrid approach is easy to get “under your fingers,” so to speak.
The gunmetal/black coloring on the Tour One is bound not to offend any sensibilities, though I wouldn’t mind having at least one other color option here. But as it stands, the Tour One presents a polished, professional look befitting the price point.
At $300, you expect some nice accessories, and the Tour One deliver there. In general, these headphones are quite compact: they collapse into a fairly tight ball and fold flat to lay over your clavicles when around your neck, but I wouldn’t want to risk throwing them in a satchel or backpack without the carrying case. The case is sturdy enough to keep them safe from bag-related incidentals and compact enough for easy travel. It’s a good middle ground.
I also love that the USB-C charging cable is roughly the same length as the included 3.5mm cable: it means while seated in front of a laptop, for example, you can charge the headphones while continuing to listen to analog audio. This isn’t possible with the shorter USB-C cables you get with a lot of headphones these days.
Great sound quality
When you’re paying this much for headphones, they’d better sound great—fortunately, the Tour One are no slouch. The first thing I did (after getting the JBL app installed on my phone) was boot up one of my favorite “chillwave” Spotify playlists. I was immediately impressed by the Tour One’s presentation of deep synth bass, lush keyboards, and impactful electronic drum beats and snares.
As sound quality goes, I’m hard-pressed to find anything lacking here. Every listening session so far, whether over Bluetooth or passively via the 3.5mm cable, has left me feeling pleased. The entire frequency range—from deep sub-bass to bright treble—is presented evenly along a mostly flat curve, nailing a balance of emphasis that isn’t always easy to find in a pair of “consumer” headphones.
Many modern headphones seem to embark on one of two paths: either delivering a high-impact experience by placing more emphasis on harder-hitting frequencies at the expense of detail, or maintaining expansive detail that sometimes feels kind of wimpy in its presentation. The Tour One manage to again strike a good hybrid ground here, suffusing the full spectrum of sound with detail while still being impactful and loud enough to satisfy listeners who want their eardrums to rumble a bit.
If you’re really picky about sound quality, you'll want to employ the JBL My Headphones app. Among other features (more detail on those in the next section), there’s a fully customizable EQ (equalizer) to manually adjust frequencies (i.e., more bass, less treble, etc), save your EQ setting and save it within the app, or select from a few preset EQs like Bass and Jazz.
There are two points of good news regarding the EQ: the first is that, unlike the somewhat odd DJ-based EQ modes on JBL's Club One, the Tour One’s simpler EQ presets are both easy to understand and effective. While I don’t know if a bump to midrange and lower treble frequencies necessarily constitutes a “jazzy” sound, the difference in EQ is immediately noticeable. The “Bass” function is especially effective, so if you really like deep, rumbling bass presence, you’ll be glad to have the option.
The second piece of good news is that most listeners probably won’t need to mess with the EQ. The default sound is excellent.
Truly useful features
In JBL's My Headphones app, once you’re connected to the Tour One headphones, you’re greeted with a panoply of (mostly) useful features.
At a glance, the main screen clues you into your remaining battery life, as well as whether any firmware updates are available. Chiefly, you’ll want to use the app to do things like toggling noise cancelling on or off and selecting the intensity: “True Adaptive NC” claims to automatically compensate Noise Cancelling performance in real time, while “Everyday mode” is non-adaptive, meaning it applies the same degree of cancelling across environments.
You can also toggle Ambient Sound Control on or off. By default, turning on Ambient Sound Control triggers the Ambient Aware setting, which is tuned to help you stay aware of your surroundings while outdoors. This mode seems to key in on isolated sounds, like sudden squealing brakes or the bleats of traffic horns. It doesn’t work perfectly all the time, but most of the time it’s effective.
TalkThru, the other Ambient Sound Control setting, is a much more drastic and noticeable shift. Playback audio is reduced greatly in volume, while the exterior microphones switch on to amplify the outside world. True to the name, TalkThru makes it very easy to talk right through whatever’s playing: I had a whole conversation with my fiancee while music continued lightly in the background. It’s not the most elegant version of this feature I’ve experienced—the level to which exterior sounds are amplified is almost jarring at times—but it works as it should.
Naturally, you can only have either Noise Cancelling or Ambient Sound Control modes active at one time, since both are using the Tour One’s exterior microphones.
You can also adjust the Bluetooth quality. There are three settings: one for a “congested” environment (such as when you’re commuting in a city, or sitting on an airplane); one that prioritizes audio quality; and one that prioritizes audio and video synchronization for when you’re watching content on your phone.
There’s also a rather clever way to integrate the Tour One into your alarm function, which I admittedly did not try, as the intention is to fall asleep with the headphones on your head with noise canceling creating a “silence bubble” ideal for repose. The My Alarm feature allows you to customize the length of time that music plays and the length of time for a “SilentNow” session before your alarm goes off. This could be great for busy travelers.
You can also use the app to do things like adjusting the function button (located on the back of the left earcup) so that it activates your voice assistant instead of jumping between sound modes, adjust your native voice assistant, or even enable multi-language voice prompts, among other features. The auto Play/Pause function also works marvelously: the Tour One have never failed to stop or start playback when I took them off or put them back on.
Effective noise reduction
Since moving cross country to San Diego, I’ve discovered it can be a noisy place during the summer: from construction and delivery trucks to my fiancee's zoom calls and the scream of our robot vacuum as it auto-empties, it's a great environment for testing noise canceling.
In the default mode, True Adaptive NC, the Tour One do an excellent job of dampening ambient noise. The bulk of repetitive background noise fades off, replaced by a peaceful quiet that, especially with music playing, really does seem to shut out the outside world.
They’re not quite as effective as the Sony WH-1000XM4. High-frequency sounds like my cat’s squeaky meows still cut through at times, and drone sounds like the loud vacuum mentioned above, were still audible over my music using the Tour One. They might slip past the XM4’s canceling as well, but not to the same degree.
Still, the Tour One’s ANC deserves kudos for how reliably and consistently it works to quiet the world down, even if it isn’t the absolute best noise canceling you can buy.
Terrific battery life
JBL claims that the Tour One deliver a 50-hour battery life, but using features like ANC, ambient sound mode, or tweaking other settings will net you closer to 40 or 45 hours depending on the amount of adjusting you end up doing.
Naturally, this effect was more extreme during the course of the review than it might be for the average person, but here’s the good news: even on the lower end of the scale, this is still terrific battery life for wireless over-ear headphones. The pricier Sony WH-1000XM4 only net you around 30 hours per charge on average, putting the Tour One a step ahead—even if you obsessively alter playback modes and EQ presets.
What we don’t like
Some 3.5mm glitches
One of the first things I did after unboxing the Tour One was listen to it passively (using the included 3.5mm cable) my laptop while I charged it up via USB connection to my laptop. Within the first half-hour or so of listening, I noticed some cutting between stereo and mono happening when the 3.5mm cable was jostled. This didn’t leave me with the strongest first impression, though it also may be an isolated incident.
The issue has been intermittent. It’s possible the presence of dust on the connecting pins created this issue, but it’s also possible the thin 3.5mm cable that comes in the box just isn’t terribly reinforced, and may need replacing if you do find yourself using it a lot.
This obviously isn’t a huge issue for headphones that most people are primarily going to use in a wireless/Bluetooth capacity, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Software could be smarter
The only other thing I wish JBL would change is the “memory” of these headphones for software. You can do a lot with the My Headphones app, but it doesn’t always play nice with the headphones themselves: changing your Ambient Sound Control from “Ambient Aware” to “TalkThru,” for example, doesn’t hold over between certain other functions. Changing the quality of the Bluetooth connection will sometimes swap all of the settings for ANC and transparency mode back to their defaults.
This is another minor issue, and it might be easy to fix with a firmware update.
Should you buy it?
Yes, these are blue-ribbon cans
The Tour One check off all the right boxes: they’re comfortable in the short and long term, deliver high-quality sound, cancel noise very effectively, and are stuffed with useful features. While $300 is not a price tag you’d sneeze at, I would definitely recommend these if they’re in your price range.
The only real consideration to make is how the competition stacks up. If price is no object, I still prefer the Sony WH-1000XM4: they’re a bit lighter, more comfortable, they do a slightly better job canceling out noise, and they’re available in both black and white versions. But are those differences worth $50? That’s really up to you, but for a lot of folks, saving $50 might very well be more appealing—especially since you're getting a decent increase in total battery life with the Tour One.
If you’re particularly interested in top-of-the-line noise canceling, you might also want to check out the classic Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II, which rank among our favorite noise cancellers and cost the same as the Tour One. You’re losing out on some features with Bose's pair, however: the battery life is about half that of the Tour One, and you won’t get the same range of customization features either.
The JBL Tour One are excellent all-rounders. If you want an equal emphasis on sound quality, ANC, features, and comfort for $300, these are some of the best headphones around.
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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